2662 Gnome Economics.

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My paternal grandmother was a teacher. Or, at the very least, that was one of the many hats she wore in the course of a very productive life. She noticed, at one point, that children passing through the school lacked knowledge of basic skills generally required for success in the system as it existed back then, and mostly now as well. She took it upon herself to create a course that would teach these skills, which had somehow not been handed down from parents to children over a long enough period that it was causing a breakdown of civil society. It continued well past the time that other schools were abandoning things like, civics, home economics, shop, and other similar classes/subjects. I am not one to praise teachers since I encountered so few worthy of it, and she was not a teacher to me outside of the role a grandmother has in an extended family, so I don’t know what kind of teacher she was first hand. I do, however, know what people wrote about here, and how they honored her for changing their lives. Excellent teachers are stewards of the future. A bulwark standing against decay. At least that’s how it seems to me. There’s an element of altruism in teaching. Giving of yourself even when your reward may not be much. Which is not to say that I think teachers shouldn’t be compensated, far from it, but the reality is that they rarely are. and few can maintain the drive in the face of overwhelming forces standing against them.
You might think that a person who was so civic minded and stern would discourage someone like myself from becoming an artist, or writer. Again, you would be mistaken. She felt that there was little point in maintaining a society where creativity was stifled. For what good is life if one denies the creativity that exists in humanity? She was truly a person of vision. What you might call a renaissance man if she were male. I suppose renaissance woman is the correct thing to call her, but it sounds strange. If there’s another, female, equivalent alas, I don’t know it.

I very much wish she was still around to look upon this thing I have created. Hopefully she would see value in my earnest attempt to improve the world with my meager skills. I wonder what she would say about it, or if she would be proud. Unless we are reunited with our families when we die that’s something I’ll never know. I was far too young when she passed to get to know her the way I wish I could now that I’ve lived nearly half a century. I suspect I would still feel very much like a buffoon pretending to be civilized as I did when I was younger. Even though she never tried to make me feel that way. Her presence simply made you realize how much you could be if you applied yourself the way she did. She was not one to knock others down. Her hand was always available to lift them up.

Anyway, like, comment, and subscribe. Hopefully I’ll see you back here on Monday. Until then, may the road rise to meet you.


What a lovely paean to her and to education as a profession. I like that phrase ‘bulwark against decay’. Rock on, Jackie.

The worst indictment of the modern educational system (at least in the USA) is that excellent teachers are not rewarded for their excellence. Our system is much better at protecting poor teachers from being fired than it is at rewarding good ones.

I once changed schools, and the math at my new school was far behind what I had already learned at previous schools. I was spinning my wheels, just wasting time, bored. The math teacher gave me a more advanced textbook and let me self-study from it. Nobody rewarded her for doing this to help me but now I wish I could go back in time and thank her.

A lot of that can be chalked up to teachers’ unions. Like any union they tend to reward time-serving mediocrity over ability or dedication. And they definitely prioritize protecting teachers over effectively teaching students. The head of the American Federation of Teachers once publicly stated that he’d start worrying about students when they started paying union dues. Allowing public sector workers to unionize was always a bad idea.

My experience of teachers and education is all over the place. It ranges from attending a school where the town was moving in anyone who had a large family so they could keep attendance up and the doors open. Everyone was better off when they consolidated with the next town over. Through high school I gained an appreciation for music. For someone who was never going to be a very good athlete, band was a godsend. My only regrets about high school was that I should have taken more math and less woodshop. I enjoyed and still do enjoy making things but this class was kind of a parking space for the slackers. If you stayed busy and didn’t cut your thumb off in the table saw, you were going to get a good grade. Although as a farm kid I was already driving, Drivers Ed was useful for learning the laws of the road. In the alternating semester I got my first first aid course. There was also a basic business course that taught how to balance a checkbook and deal with things such as loans and interest. By my senior year I had already taken all of the science classes so I got to have self directed hour every day in the back of the science room. I entered all of the local science competitions, wrote a paper on rain making and ran an experiment in making ethanol from grain to pure alcohol. I think the science thing mostly happened because they didn’t know what else to do with me. The thing is, aside from Band, my grand kids, who attend a larger and nicer school than I did, don’t get many of those beneficial experiences. An example of current local education practice is one of the local towns. It is a very small school and the only school in a west Texas county. They got a lot of tax revenue from all the wind turbines that are going up. The first thing they did was build a new football stadium and hire a high powered coach so that they could win the state championship in 6 man foot ball. So much for teaching useful skills.

It’s so unfortunate that the schools keep taking up more and more of their students’ time (longer days, longer years, fewer days off) yet, somehow, teach them less and less useful stuff outside of “how to get into a STEM field.” Like, some parents are just not doing their jobs, but it’s also harder for them to do so when their kids don’t get home until like 5 and then have 2-3 hours of homework every night. Their kids are just wiped out. My own dad got on my case, but good lord, I got up at 6AM, got home at 4, had club stuff around 6, and had to cram in my homework before and after that, not to mention eating dinner, doing chores, taking a shower. I barely had time during the week to do anything, and if I did, hell yeah I wanted to unwind. Then I got a weekend job so I worked every Friday night, as well as Saturday and Sunday. And amazingly, I was less busy than many of my peers, who did all the same but also were in sports and band or choir. Schools are supposed to prepare kids to be adults, theoretically, but they not only don’t teach those life skills, but they grind kids down–I was RELIEVED when I got a full-time job and went off on my own, as I finally had MORE free time.

TL:DR Schools increasingly won’t let kids be kids, and I think this has the unintended side-effect of causing young adults (be they college students or young people entering the work force full time) to then be kids–the partying, the drinking, the drugs, the financial waste, all compounded by a lack of knowledge of how to even handle things like a budget. It’s all backwards.

I loved how you’ve honored your grandmother with your work. I suspect she’d be proud of you, and the way you have absorbed her essential goodness and want to pass it on.
When I was in what is now called middle school I remember courses in civics, government, local history (in addition to national and world), plus shop/home ec. This in a single-building school in a town of barely 5000 (early 1960s). I had no idea of how much our teachers were paid, but they were dedicated and often wonderful, and I remember them still.

I think I kind of understand what Jess means, by “sh*thole schools”.

FWIW- my Mom didn’t like one of the high schools that I went to. (My family moved a few times in my kid-hood, so I went to a number of high schools.)

This school was for kids in the 9-12th grades.

Mom described the school as “a brain factory”, because, in her experience- the teachers + staff were just “punching the time clock”, + weren’t going to offer the slightest amount of extra effort to: the kids, or to the kids’ parents, if the kids or parents asked them for any amount of help.

To her- the teachers there, just said their lectures to the students, + then the teachers just gave the kids a test on the material…every Friday.

This might have been true, but I don’t know.
At the time- I was just trying to get through high school, + wasn’t attempting to gauge the professional skills of my teachers. Hm. Cheers.

Sadly, that is what many parents want, despite saying they don’t. On a micro level they don’t, but when they hear that their district has lower test scores or graduation rates, they demand this kind of action; more cramming kids’ heads full of material, and testing, relentlessly. I’m sure even some of the teachers didn’t like it, but if they suggested to alter course, it’d be cast as trying to not do their jobs, despite their jobs not working out so well and being soul crushing to both them and their young charges.

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